Friday, August 19, 2016

Self-centeredness Destroys Relationships

Self-centeredness is a sad thing. It is the basis for many relational problems. Generally, everybody needs acceptance. And that can only happen when the person is recognized and appreciated for his character, personality, gifting and contribution in a relationship or society. When a person's contribution is not recognized and appreciated, something dies in that person. 

The desire to be appreciated may lead to a form of distorted appreciation that is self-focused. That is to recognize only one's own efforts and contributions and totally forget about what other party or parties have contributed. 

For example, in a relationship such as a marriage, trouble begins when the couple refuses to recognize the contributions that each has brought to the relationship. 

Many a time, one spouse may become totally blind to what the other spouse is contributing to the marriage and begins to make unrealistic demands. The regular quarrels are mostly which person contributes the least and wastes the most. 

For example, in one counseling session concerning a marital dispute, after spending time counseling a man, I asked him to wait outside while I talked to his wife. The wife walked in and even before she sat down, she shot me the question, "What lies did my husband told you?" 

What this lady did not realize was that her husband was extremely honest about his own short comings and mistakes that he had made. In short, he confessed that he needed help so that he could be a better spouse. When I asked the lady to evaluate her own short comings, she could only name one. She said, "My mistake is that I choose to marry him." 

She felt that she had done no wrong and therefore was not to be responsible for the conflicts in their marriage. Every problem arose because of "his anger management problem" and "his pride" and "his side of the family".  In fact, she shared lavishly about all the sacrifices she had made such as taking care of her mother-in-law by bringing the elderly lady shopping once a while. One of her sacrifices was to avoid prolonging the quarrel by going back to her parents' home. She was tired of the "cold war" but she claimed that God had given her to patience to overcome. 

The couple had no children and so the lady, as a homemaker, spent a lot of time looking after her six cats. She spent lots of money and time grooming them, feeding them special food, and taking them for competitions. In fact, her cats won many prizes which she proudly showed some photos with her mobile phone.

This lady did admit that she neither cooked, washed or ironed for the husband. She claimed that she had to take care of her cats and so she had no time to take care of her husband. She justified, "Anyway, he is a grown man and should be able to take care of himself." 

This lady went on to describe, unlike her commitment to the Lord, her husband was a spiritual slob. He did not read the bible regularly, disliked praying and serving God. A few times, I heard the word, "hypocrite" being repeated while she painted a very negative picture of the man she married.

The husband had his mistake too. He retaliated by working and staying late in the office. Even though he served in a church and headed up some committees, his life was a mess. He admitted that he had anger-management problem and suffered lots of inner hurts since childhood. He had an intense hatred for his mother and siblings. His whole desire to achieve success was to "show them who he really was"

Because of his arrogant nature, this man had few friends. During the counseling, he revealed great pride in his professional achievement and social status. He felt that he was highly intelligent and that his wife was absolutely "brainless". He could see nothing good in her, except that she was good at spending his money and nagging at him. He wanted to leave her on many occasions but his church elders had counseled him against it.

The wife was more religious and knew how to talk the "Christian" way. She sounded like a Christian alright but from what she had revealed, she was full of deep-seeded unforgiveness, bitterness and self-righteousness. She had done"absolutely no wrong" in this marriage and proudly proclaimed that she was the ideal wife. All the faults and problems that caused the marriage to deteriorate were caused by her "stupid" husband. She did not believe in divorce and so she lamented that her husband was God's "thorn in the flesh" for her. She said that she would "bravely endure this miserable life until God changes my husband".

I really like to say that this couple resolved their problems and learned to love each other. The truth is that the man left his church after he was caught having an extramarital relationship with someone. He filed for a divorce with his wife and after two years, remarried.

The "righteous" wife had lost financial support and so is now back in the work force, serving as an administrative assistant in a small company. She lives with her aging parents and her cats, continues to attend church and is not looking for another husband. 

Self-centeredness has its foundation on pride in oneself rather than honoring God and others. Even if a person were to repent, he (or she) has to ask whether he is repenting because of his own guilt alone or he is repenting because of his love for God. If the the ultimate goal of repentance is to rid oneself of the feelings of guilt, then it is definitely not true repentance. If God, is not the center of the person's motivation to repent, then once again it is a self-centered rather than God-centered decision and action.

Many couples do not realize that the solution to their marital woes lies with their relationship with God. There is of course a great difference between the Pharisaic relationship with God and that of Christ and His disciples. Here are some pointers that may help us understand how our relationship is with God and whether we 

He is more troubled by how he feels than what he’s done.
He returns to the sin as soon as the guilt leaves.
He is unwilling to change other sinful desires and actions; he only cares to reform the desire or action that is causing the guilt. Again, his main concern is getting rid of the guilt, not becoming more Christlike overall.
He is not primarily concerned with being totally reconciled to God. He is only concerned with getting rid of his feelings of guilt.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


1 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and placed me in the midst of the valley, and it was full of bones. 2 He made me walk all around among them. I realized there were a great many bones in the valley and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said to him, "Sovereign Lord, you know." 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and tell them: 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 
(Ezekiel 37:1-4)

I am reminded of some couples that Pastor Grace and I have counseled. Many of their marriages were like dry bones. They were so brittle that they could break at any point of crisis.

Many of these couples had survived through very tough time together but their relationships did not improve. Some of them were even planning to separate and ultimately divorce.

However, because they were willing to let God be the Master of their marriage and submit to His will, the Lord intervened and spoke life to their relationships.

Through forgiveness, patience, love, wisdom and understanding, the love between the couples has grown and flourished.

Many still have to make daily adjustments as the Lord brings correction into their lives. The good thing is that the couples have learned how to speak life into their marriage and stir up the Agape love that God has blessed them with since the beginning of their relationship.

They no longer consider divorce as an option. They now know that they belong to each other and most importantly they belong to God. They have learned to draw strength and love from the Lord so as to love and cherish each other better.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Albert Kang